By Marjorie Nesin
---- — The small, long-vacant, building in the Main Street plaza, will churn with life for the first time since it’s initial 2008 construction when construction crews convert the building shell into a pay-by-the-ounce frozen yogurt franchise, topped off with curvy plastic chairs and a decor coated in peachy orange and limey green shades.
Three long-time business partners, including a Gloucester native, hope to open by the end of May a franchise of the frozen yogurt company Orange Leaf in the small, leased building at 102 Rogers St., the building that shares a parking lot with Walgreens and sits across the street from the Whale Center of New England building.
“As soon as the permit’s given to us this week or next week, we’ll be out there renovating the building,” said Eric Broadhurst, one of the co-owners.
The $300,000 renovations on the 1,500-square-foot building, according to Broadhurst, will add on a 400 square foot patio and convert what is now a shell of a building — still with dirt floors — into a 75 flavors of frozen yogurt-doling franchise. The business will remain open year round on a daily basis, he said.
Developer Mac Bell, who owns the plaza, erected the building shell in 2008, after tearing down what was then a longstanding brick water-vending shed. The vending stand was relocated to alongside Dunkin’ Donuts, still selling water at 35 cents per gallon, and up went current building. Though Bell initially met with a number of potential clients, including a hair salon business, a restaurant and an insurance company, however, the building has never had a tenant and remained vacant since.
Though business partners, Broadhurt, Dennis Metayar, and Gloucester High School Class of 1985 graduate Sean Nickerson, have teamed up in the past six years to open six health clubs under the name Choice Fitness, Gloucester’s Orange Leaf will act as their first food industry franchise. And the team hopes to see their 22 to-be-hired employees selling off frozen treats before the start of summer.
The partners intend to hire Gloucester residents to fill the job openings, with one full-time general manager seat and most other jobs as part-time positions.
“It’s always good to take a building like this, which has been vacant for so many years, and do something positive with it,” Nickerson said. “I’m pretty happy that the first one we’re doing is in my home town.”
Nickerson noted that he lived in Gloucester for the first 35 years of his life and said much of his family, especially the Curcurus on his mother’s side, still live in town.
“With my family alone, I should do good business down here,” Nickerson joked.
The team initially scouted out the location while looking for potential gym locations, though most of their fitness centers punctuate Merrimac area towns and cities. Though the group found Gloucester satisfied in terms of gyms, the idea for a frozen yogurt business came to mind. Initially, the men swayed between creating an original business and franchising, but stuck to franchising for the sake of name recognition and recognized quality.
“We thought we could probably get away with doing our own name,” Nickerson said, “but we felt that, because Gloucester is a tourist destination and Orange Leaf is starting to grow throughout the country, somebody might come from Alabama or Florida and say ‘Wow they’ve got an Orange Leaf. Let’s get some frozen yogurt.’”
The trio picked Orange Leaf as their franchise of choice not just for the quality of the yogurt, they said, but also because the franchise tends to encourage community involvement.
“They like you to stay involved with the community, whether it’s donating some proceeds to little league teams or hosting a fund drive,” Nickerson said. “We’re not just going to get there and sit back and sell yogurt.”
Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.